Loveskiing’s La Plagne Review
Although dismissed in the past as a failed experiment, La Plagne is on the way up. Its unusual design of 10 mini-villages had been ridiculed, but through recent re-investment the once ghost towns are now beginning to purr and fill up with eager skiers. With the new Vanoise Express now linking La Plagne to Les Arcs, it is one of the largest ski areas in the world with over 425 km of pistes! La Plagne also offers huge opportunities for off-piste skiing with acres and acres of fluffy, powdery playgrounds. However, for the snowboarders out there La Plagne has a fair few flat sections so be aware that you may have to do some walking (but not too much compared to other resorts). Off the slopes, the purpose-built resort of La Plagne has a plentiful supply of bars and restaurants to keep most satisfied, apart from the most ardent après skiers.
|33 chair lifts|
|50 drag lifts|
|11 cable cars/gondolas|
|Piste marking is dubious. Some blues are blacks, whilst some blacks are easy reds. Be careful if you aren’t a confident skier!!|
|Greens: 10||Blues: 69|
|Reds: 33||Blacks: 18|
|Note:||The above runs and lifts are just in La Plagne; Paradiski has WAY more overall if you choose to buy this pass.|
|Size of the ski area||La Plagne: 225km+ ; Paradiski Area: 425km+|
|Nearest airport||Chambery: 2hrs ; Grenoble: 2hrs30; Geneva: 3hrs|
|Nearest train||Aime La Plagne (TGV): 20 mins ; Moutiers (Eurostar): 1hr|
La Plagne, known for its array of purpose-built resorts and links with Les Arcs in the huge Paradiski Area, offers skiers and boarders alike a great variety of challenging runs. If the weather is setting in and you don’t want to feel like you’re in an Arctic snowstorm at the top of the world, then you can head to La Plagne’s tree runs for shelter. However if there isn’t a cloud in the sky then you’ll have a vast array of winding blues, reds and the occasional black (dubiously marked, we must add) to play around on! While the lift system is neither the best nor the most modern we’ve ever seen, it certainly isn’t a reason not to go here and is on a par with most French resorts, perhaps lagging behind certain Austrian resorts with their amazing, butt-warming chairlifts that you never want to leave.
- Large ski area with all types of terrain – from wooded runs through the trees to wide open pistes up high.
- Great choice of accommodation – over 10 villages to choose from.
- Good standard of mountain restaurants/bars – good atmosphere and clean (not the cheapest, however)
- Bellecote offers challenging terrain to all those who love to indulge in off-piste skiing.
- Fantastic range of cross-country skiing and snow shoe walking tracks.
- Great for kids
- Brilliant links to other ski areas (Champagny and Les Arcs)
- Easy to get to – regular bus service from the train station at the foot of the mountain, for those who wish to take the overnight train.
- Olympic bob-sleigh run is now open to the public.
- Plenty of snow parks, with La Plagne boasting three.
- Overcrowding during peak times.
- Progressively ageing lift system.
- The resort’s structure – by having 10 mini-villages a certain buzz is lost without there being a main hub, however Plagne Centre is improving every year. It also means you have to make sure you take the correct piste home, otherwise you’ll end up stuck in the wrong mini-resort!
- The flat pistes above Belle Plagne get tiresome for Snowboarders, who will get very bored of walking.
- As a result of the village structure, the nightlife certainly suffers. Only in the centre do bars stay open into the early hours. We found there to be a distinct lack of après-ski 🙁
- Piste marking is at times dubious, especially over towards Champagny (read more about this below)
Summary of La Plagne Ski Area
La Plagne is an enigma: some people love it and go back year after year, others label it ugly, purpose-built and confusing to navigate. In 2014, Loveskiing decided to set the record straight once and for all. We were staying in Plagne Villages (2050m) which is located (you may need to look at the piste map at the bottom of this page to make sense of this) alongside Plagne Soleil and above Plagne Centre (1970m) and Plagne 1800 (1800m), with Aime la Plagne (2100m) and Plagne Montalbert (1350m) to one side of this central hub, Plagne Bellecote (1930m) and Belle Plagne (2050m) to the other side of it, and Les Coches (1450m) and Montchavin (1250m) even further along from these last two. Champagny (1250m) is another resort easily reached from the top of the Plagne bowl and somewhere we certainly recommend you ski. So that this review is as coherent as possible, we’re going to start by describing the area to the right of the piste map (Plagne Montalbert) and move our way across until we get to the Vanoise Express, above Montchavin, on the left of it.
Starting with Montalbert, the runs aren’t particularly long, nor are they particularly challenging – you’ll be able to ski them all in a morning – but you have to ski there at least one day, if not more. Why, you ask? Two reasons. Firstly, it’s inevitable that – on one day of your holiday – the weather will turn and the exposed peaks above La Plagne will not be a hospitable place. It’s on these days that you’ll find yourself looking for tree-skiing. And one of these places is Montalbert. The runs are by no means bad over here – they offer beginner-to-intermediate skiers a good place to practice – however it must be noted that snow conditions can deteriorate here, especially early or late in the season, seeing as this is one of the lower areas of the La Plagne domain.
Le Forperet – Loveskiing’s Special Feature for La Plagne
The second reason, and arguably the main reason for spending at least a day over here, is a little alpine hut called ‘Le Forperet’. There aren’t enough adjectives to describe this little hut of food heaven: its interior is charming, miniscule, full of character, and resplendently cosy; the food it offers is sublime, mouthwatering and simply perfect. And as if all that weren’t enough, its prices are way more reasonable than anywhere else we found in La Plagne as well. A couple of our stand-out dishes were the Reblochon Burger – imagine your perfect cheese burger, but replace the usual thin strip of plastic cheese for an inch-thick slab of oozing, melting Savoyard cheese – and the Vegetable Lasagne – one of the best homemade Lasagne’s we’d ever had (it was also a daily special so it only cost a measly eight euros!). As for the views, the restaurant is perched halfway up the mountain with a perfectly unobstructed vista of the valley and its surrounding mountains – a perfect place for an afternoon beer and spot of sun-bathing on those warm Easter days. We have just one word of warning, finding the restaurant for the first time isn’t as easy as picking it out on the piste map and skiing there. Its location on the piste map (just above the Gentil lift and green run in Montalbert) is not entirely accurate. Our advice is stick left as you’re coming down the mountain until you come to a building and a little road to the left of it. The run you want is the one that goes over this road (depending on the conditions you may have to take your skis off and walk over it so you don’t damage your skis), then it’s a matter of skiing down this piste for some 100 metres until you see the hut appear on your right. Hopefully this will help you find this little gem and you’ll enjoy it as much as we did – we’d love to hear what you think of it!
…back to our summary
Back to our summary, we enjoyed the reds, Farandole and Emile Allais, leading down to TSD La Roche (below Aime La Plagne) and would say they’re definitely worth cruising down on your way back from Montalbert. For the beginners out there, we recommend heading to the blue run, Golf, as this piste is very wide and not very steep, perfect for beginners wanting to perfect what you’ve learnt in your lessons. There are also some enjoyable blues around here, notably Samba and Mont St Sauveur. However, here we must make you aware of a potential long, flat pole for those of you not very savvy about the area. It is avoidable, but you must know about it for this to be possible. At the bottom of the two aforementioned blue runs, Samba and Mont St Sauveur, you need to head right and it is here that you will encounter the flat area. Most of you will want to take the Colorado lift, and to get there you must schuss down the run by the Biollet III lift. If you don’t, you’ll have to pole and trek up a little slope to get there. If you want to head to the lifts further along this Plagne Centre area – such as Funiplagne Grande Rochette or Melezes – you’ll need to pole a bit, but unfortunately this is unavoidable and you’ll just have to minimise the amount of times you do it! This area is a fun place to ski, with plenty of easy blues and the odd not-so-difficult red.
Some of our favourite runs were found from the top of the Roche de Mio gondola (a huge gondola that takes you from Plagne Bellecote, through Belle Plagne, up to Roche de Mio at 2700m). The red, Inversens, is a gorgeous, undulating, curving run which we adored, however the only chairlift that serves it, also named Inversens, is painstakingly slow and really spoils the run – if it weren’t for the lift, it’d be one of those runs that you do over and over again. The lift is also extremely exposed, so on cold, windy days it is utterly unbearable. Other notable runs are the red, Les Sources, which heads round the mountain and down into Plagne Bellecote, and the blue, Carella, which heads down into neighbouring Champagny. There’s also a fun, if a little short, black – La Mio – which proves to be a great leg-burner (if you ski it properly) for advanced skiers wanting to be a little more exhilarated. It’s from up here that you can head over to the Glacier de Bellecôte on the Bellecote bubble (the only way to get there). Unfortunately, when the Loveskiing team were in La Plagne the glacier was closed due to high winds so we weren’t able to review it. If this happens to you too, we recommend heading to the Restaurant d’Altitude Les Inversens. It’s a restaurant/bar right at the top of the Inversens, Sources and Levasset runs that has THE MOST spectacular views of the surrounding mountains, as well as a particularly good view of Mont Blanc if you look towards Les Arcs. Oh, and it has a brilliant log burner in the outside “gazebo” on the balcony – a great place to warm up and admire the views. Well worth stopping for a vin chaud and taking a couple of photos for the trip scrapbook!
Finally, heading over to the Les Coches and Montchavin area, we were delighted to discover some fun tree skiing. There are enough runs to keep you occupied for an afternoon, as long as there is enough snow cover – we found that halfway down this area, the quality of the snow deteriorated considerably due to the fact we were getting down well below 1500m. The reds are an intermediate’s paradise, with delightful, flowing pistes cutting through the forest until you reach the villages. One of our favourites was the Montchavin red, along with Esselet, another red whose only drawback is the blue ‘road’ you have to glide along to get to a lift. But perhaps this is part of its charm – the more remote the run, the less people there are skiing on it! We also found that the blues in this area were easy and frankly rather dull. In our opinion, they’re basically tracks that traverse down the mountain in order to transport beginners from the top to the bottom.
From Les Verdons and La Grande Rochette, you’re able to ski down a multitude of runs to Champagny (there are other ways of getting there too, including via Roche de Mio and the top of Les Blanchets lift) and we recommend you do this at least once. In all likelihoods, you’ll like the area so much you’ll do it more than once. Food is also more reasonably priced than in other areas. Our one criticism is that the runs Bozelet (blue), Bosses (black), Hara-kiri (red) and Kamikaze (red) are not well marked, despite being very enjoyable runs. For example, Bozelet, the blue run, is harder than Hara-kiri, one of the red runs, and has a rather steep top section, especially for beginner-intermediates who were expecting a wide, not-so-steep blue. Of course, if you’re a good quality intermediate skier, you’ll have no worries on any of the pistes (Bosses is one of the easiest blacks you’ll ever come across!). We had great fun tearing up and down these pistes and taking the quick Verdons Sud to the top each time. As for the two runs (Mont de la Guerre and Les Bois) that head to the village itself, they were both closed while we were there due to a lack of snow lower down, so be aware of this before you set off down them.
To keep this clear and concise we’re going to answer a couple of simple questions:
Was it as we expected?
At the beginning of this review, we stated that La Plagne has a reputation for being an ugly, purpose-built resort that’s hard to navigate. In our opinion, this point of view is completely and utterly misguided. We found that the resorts actually nestled into the surroundings rather well, and whilst not traditional, alpine villages, they are perhaps a glimpse into the future of high-altitude, convenience skiing. Personally, we would much rather stay in ski-in-ski-out accommodation at altitude than a pretty chalet in the centre of a low, traditional town. As for the navigation issues, it certainly isn’t easy to navigate between resorts and to ensure you end up in the right place when the lifts close, but as long as you follow your piste map at crunch times, you’ll be okay! In addition to this, we were taken aback with the plethora of runs on offer in the area, with an array of easy blues for beginners, even easier greens for young families, long, winding reds for cruisers and the odd difficult black for those wanting to push themselves.
Who does it suit?
With this in mind, you could say La Plagne suits most people. However, there is one group that we feel would be let down: keen après-skiers looking for bars as raucous as those in St. Anton. The owner of our ski chalet explained that “La Plagne isn’t really a place people go for crazy après-ski. In fact, the locals and regulars frown upon more than a couple drinks so that’s why you don’t find many places to really let your hair down.”
Therefore not ideal for:
Those looking for a big après-ski scene – as explained above, if you’re looking for the loud, dancing-on-tables type of bar you’d expect in St. Anton, Ischgl or even Val d’Isère, then La Plagne probably isn’t for you.
Pretty much everyone else – families, couples, keen cruisers, advanced skiers…the list goes on, there’s plenty to suit everyone in La Plagne and the altitude of the resort means that snow conditions are not likely to disappoint.
How does it compare to the rest of the Alps?
We must say that La Plagne is up there with one of the top resorts in the Alps in terms of size of ski area, and variety of terrain available. The lift system is no worse than the one in the Trois Vallées and whilst food and drink is expensive at times, there are places to find reasonably priced food.
Were there queues?
At certain pinch points, we did experience queues. This was particularly noticeable in Plagne Bellecote for the Colosses chairlift (the main link back over to Plagne Centre, Plagne Village etc.), especially at the end of the day when everyone was trying to make it back before the lifts closed. On the whole, however, lifts barely had a ten person queue so this was not a problem whatsoever.
Written by the Loveskiing Team in 2014. We hope you like our in-depth review of La Plagne – please feel free to like and share it using the button below to share it with your friends. Equally, if you have anything you would like to add, please comment away at the bottom of this page – we would love to hear your own opinions! We’ve also added extra info below this so you can find out more about each village, see a piste map, check out the webcam or see the latest weather forecast courtesy of Snow Forecast.
ABOUT THE RESORT
La Plagne consists of seven high altitude resorts, linked by free transport between 8am and midnight, enabling you to enjoy your holiday without a car.
- Aime-La-Plagne (2100m)
- Belle Plagne (2050m)
- Plagne Villages (2050m)
- Plagne Soleil (2050m)
- Plagne Bellecote (1950m)
- Plagne Centre (2000m)
- Plagne 1800 (1800m)
And four villages with direct access to the La Plagne ski area which can be cheaper alternatives.
- Champagny en Vanoise (1250m)
- Plagne Montalbert (1350m)
- Montchavin (1250m)
- Les Coches (1450m)
- Good for children, safe – no traffic in the square.
- Easy to access – between Plagne centre and Belle Plagne.
- Can ski from the door of the hotel.
- One of the larger villages so has all the associated amenities including numerous bars and pubs, fresh produce shops and supermarkets.
- Most of the accommodation is piste-side or a short walk.
- Very close to Plagne Bellecote which is similar in size.
- Largely chalet based.
- Many of these, in particular the less expensive ones, are a trek to the piste, and can involve waiting for a bus for the ones which are further away.
- Few bars, but central to the resort so the buses come regularly enough making après-ski possible (if you can be bothered).
- Tends to be cheaper accommodation than other villages.
- Price reflects the quality and nature of accommodation.
- Close to the main activities, services and main cable car.
- Very similar to Plagne Centre.
- Within walking distance to the Centre.
- Good beginner’s slope.
Click on the link to launch a high resolution piste map.
Click on the image below to see a live high resolution webcam for La Plagne to see the latest conditions for yourself.